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Year in the Life: Payroll

October 2018 Payroll Channel

The lunch "hour" may be a concept of the past, new research from staffing firm OfficeTeam suggests. More than half of workers (56 percent) said their typical lunch break lasts 30 minutes or less.

The Shrinking “Lunch Hour”

By Isaac M. O’Bannon, Managing Editor

The lunch “hour” may be a concept of the past, new research from staffing firm OfficeTeam suggests. More than half of workers (56 percent) said their typical lunch break lasts 30 minutes or less. Among professionals in the 28 U.S. cities surveyed, those in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami take the longest lunches. Employees in Salt Lake City, Des Moines and Cincinnati have the shortest breaks.

What are workers doing at lunch, besides eating? Respondents said they most frequently surf the internet or social media (52 percent), followed by catching up on personal calls or emails (51 percent). That’s up from 27 percent and 25 percent, respectively, from a 2014 survey. Twenty-nine percent of professionals confessed to working during lunch.

View an infographic about lunch breaks. Data tables with breakdowns by age and gender are also available.

Workers were asked, “What is the average length (in minutes) of your typical lunch break?” Their responses:

0-10 minutes


11-20 minutes


21-30 minutes


31-40 minutes


41-50 minutes


51-60 minutes


More than 60 minutes




Workers were also asked, “Aside from eating, which of the following activities do you usually engage in during your lunch break?” Their responses:*

Surf the web/social media


Catch up on personal calls/emails


Socialize with coworkers


Run errands




Exercise/take a walk




*Multiple responses permitted. Top responses shown.

“Even if only 30 minutes or less are available due to workloads or company guidelines, professionals should try to maximize lunch breaks to relax and recharge a bit,” said Brandi Britton, district president for OfficeTeam. “These days, people are quick to turn to their mobile devices to pass the time, but it can be a nice change of pace and good for relationship building to eat with colleagues.”

Additional findings:

  • Workers ages 18 to 34 (60 percent) most often surf the web or social media during lunch, compared to those ages 35 to 54 (55 percent) and 55 and older (34 percent).  
  • Professionals in Phoenix, Boston and Washington, D.C., work the most on their lunch breaks.
  • Employees in Miami, New York, Houston and San Diego most frequently socialize with colleagues during their breaks.
  • San Francisco, Chicago and Cincinnati may be the most health-conscious, with the largest number of respondents who exercise or take a walk during lunchtime.

OfficeTeam offers five tips for workers to maximize lunch breaks:

  1. Have a well-balanced meal. Don’t skip what a midday break is intended for: eating. Choose nutritious foods that provide energy for the rest of the day.
  2. Get to know colleagues. Socializing with coworkers or your manager over lunch can strengthen connections. You could also network with contacts from other departments.  
  3. Track professional goals. Use the time to meet with your mentor to discuss career progress.
  4. Step away from work. Getting out and taking a real break can help you return to the office more productive. Try exercising or walking to clear your mind.
  5. Take time for yourself. Running errands or taking care of personal tasks during lunch can result in a shorter to-do list later.




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